A group of students at Hamilton’s Mountain Secondary School staged a protest today, demanding the board reinstate their old principal. Paul Beattie was supposed to move to the school when Parkview Secondary was closed this summer.
If you haven’t been following this story from the beginning, it’s a little complicated. Parkview — a special needs school — was shut down after months of protest. But the board promised students would be accommodated at Mountain Secondary with some special conditions. One of those was that Principal Paul Beattie would move with them.
Dozens of former Parkview Secondary students gathered outside their new school, demanding their old principal be brought back.
Jordan Williams, student: “Students are feeling upset, they’re feeling betrayed. When you’re giving these students false hopes that they’re going to have their principal here for comfort and he’s not here, you know, it’s just a shame.”
In the final days of August, Beattie was replaced. Director of Education, John Malloy, has been quoted as saying the decision is linked to an investigation into graffiti that was left on the walls of Parkview when it closed. They say some of it was degrading and homophobic and that items also went missing from the school.
Mountain Secondary’s superintendent Michael Prendergast would only say this about the possibility of Beattie’s return: “I can’t comment on that. There’s an ongoing investigation with the board.”
The complexity of why their principal is gone is hard for many of the students to understand. They all have learning difficulties and many of them struggle with change.
Shirlann Babineau is a parent: “It’s a big transformation for them to go from the school that they know and love to a school that they don’t know.”
Without a familiar face to guide them, it’s been a tough start to the year for students.
Jennie Henesbee: “We’re used to having Mr. Beattie walking down the hallways wishing us a good morning and to have a good day in class and we don’t have that here.”
What they do have is determination. They say they won’t be quiet until they get Mr. Beattie back.
The school board has refused to comment on Beattie’s absence, saying it’s a personnel matter but they did issue a statement saying: “We thank Paul for his assistance into helping us look into the events that took place at the end of June. We continue to review those events and we expect to provide further information when our review is complete.”